How Technology Can Help Build #2030Now

Sep 21, 2013

Message of UNDP Coutry Director, Mr. Toshihiro Tanaka, on PH+SocialGood: The 2013 Manila Social Good Summit, Asian Institute of Management, Makati City

Maria Ressa, CEO, Rappler
Sec. Lucille Sering, Climate Change Commission
Senator Loren Legarda
Andrew McGlinche of Google
Patrick Meier, Digital Humanitarians
Netizens, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning!

#2030 Now: The Social Good Summit and the Post 2015 Agenda

On 26 September 2013, the United Nations General Assembly will be convening around the central theme of post-2015 agenda. In anticipation for the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), discussions on the new development agenda beyond 2015 are being conducted across the countries.

Starting last year, global consultations are being conducted to learn the different developmental challenges being faced by people worldwide, which then help inform member states to decide on the post-2015 framework. The UN’s vision for the post-2015 agenda, which will guide global development strategies through 2030, is “to end extreme poverty in all its forms in the context of sustainable development and to have in place the building blocks of sustained prosperity for all.” Furthermore, the UN envisions a new global partnership that enables a transformative, people-centered and planet-sensitive agenda.

With its theme #(hash tag)2030 Now, the 2013 Social Good Summit seeks to contribute to the post-2015 debate by opening up conversations on how innovation, technology, new media and new digital tools can pave the way to a better future by 2030. With this, the Summit aims to bridge the gap between our world’s toughest development challenges and long-term solutions by finding new answers to old problems, focusing on innovation for the future, and activating the power of everyone’s global network.

Challenges to Sustainable Development: Climate Change and Disasters

Two of the most serious challenges that threaten sustainable development globally are climate change and disasters. Their impacts could easily take away whatever gains any country may have on development. Therefore, the significance of addressing the threat of natural disasters and climate change cannot be overemphasized. Especially for a country that is prone to catastrophes such as the Philippines, it is one concern that we must increasingly incorporate into our overall development agenda in the 21st century.

Many of us here have in fact seen and directly experienced the far-reaching damage that typhoons, flashfloods and the like could bring upon people’s lives and property.

In the latter part of 2009, you all bore witness to the wrath of Tropical Storm Ondoy which broke 50-year records in terms of rainfall and virtually submerged the country’s capital for the first time in many decades, including areas in Metro Manila previously considered to be safe from flooding. Not long ago in the second half of 2012, extreme flooding was again experienced in Metro Manila due to rains ushered in by the “habagat” (southwest monsoon) submerging in water yet again many of the areas affected by Ondoy only a few years earlier.

Indeed the threat of natural disasters is very much real and imminent in the Philippines, the same threat that has manifested itself and taken the lives of many in other parts of the world. Before coming to assume my post in UNDP Philippines, I myself came from working in UNDP in another disaster-prone country in South Asia specifically Pakistan, which has its own share of natural disasters such as flooding, droughts, and earthquakes. Upon my assumption of duty in the Philippines, one of the major challenges which UNDP has had to address so far is yet another natural disaster – the deadly Typhoon Pablo which killed many Filipinos in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

Innovations on Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation

Although the Philippines is no stranger to the adverse impacts of natural hazards like typhoons, flooding, landslides, earthquakes, etc., being in the Pacific Ring of Fire and in the typhoon path, the increasing uncertainties of extreme weather events attributed to climate change, are outstripping the country’s capacity to cope.

However, the good news is, intensifying natural hazards because of climate change need not necessarily translate to disasters. There is such a thing as “anticipatory adaptation to climate change” and the more conventional notion of “disaster risk reduction”. These concepts and principles underpin our work on climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) in United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

UNDP’s collaborative work on disaster risk management in the country has a rather interesting history, starting with the Payatas dumpsite and Marcopper tailings dam collapse in the nineties, and on to the Quezon flooding tragedy in 2004, Leyte in 2005, Metro Manila in 2009, Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in 2010, and most recently, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley in 2012.

Noting that the mitigation responses to the growing uncertainty of meteorological hazards due to climate change cannot be “intuitive” and should be systematic, UNDP facilitated the dialogue among the “risk” agencies (PAGASA, PhiVOLCS, MGB and NAMRIA) which started the multi-agency, multi-donor collaboration to produce the scientific information and data, including multi-hazard maps, for risk assessment (or vulnerability and adaptation assessments, in climate change language), the results of which provide an objective basis for risk management which have found their way into national and local processes like land use and development planning and regulatory systems.

Additionally, UNDP and its partners advocate an integrated and systematic risk management approach to prevent or lessen the impacts of disasters. This approach consists of disaster avoidance through such interventions as developing risk-based comprehensive land use and development plans, contingency planning and early warning systems, re-engineering and risk sharing/transfer mechanisms like insurance to ensure that those who are affected by disasters can immediately recover. Resilient livelihoods for the poor are also part of the package, noting that resilient communities can recover more quickly when hit by disasters.

With these, we would like to urge everyone to participate in this paradigm shifting from “simply reacting when disasters strike” to avoiding disasters or lessening their consequences by making the appropriate interventions NOW. As they say, understanding the problem is half the solution. Unfortunately, some things cannot be done through short cut processes. Dealing with the dangers of natural hazards and the additionality of climate change is one of them.

Role of Technology to Build #2030 Now

Throughout the course of this one-day summit you will learn better the challenges related to climate change and disasters and some technological solutions to these problems, as well as some public and private initiatives related to disaster preparedness and response.

There is good reason to believe that little compelling is needed these days to underscore the urgent need for DRRM and CCA efforts. The response necessitates our collective action and shared responsibility.

Given the increasing severity of weather disturbances that visit the Philippines, and the accelerating pace at which the harsh effects of climate change are felt in our lives, it is such an important task to reach out to each other and join forces in order to address our common challenges. In the face of natural disasters, collaboration should know no boundaries, and the more institutions and citizens share their expertise and resources to advance disaster preparedness and mitigation efforts, then the better positioned we are to deal with possible catastrophes.

Therefore, we implore your active participation in this summit. We hope that our partnership will lead to results --- results that will catalyse change; results that will harness technology and the collective power of our social networks to promote a culture of safety and resilience; and results that will make Philippines a safer place by 2030.

I would like thank our partners, especially Rappler led by Maria Ressa and Google for making this summit possible. We hope this partnership holds until we are able to achieve sustainable development in the country.

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